You are hereReuters: The force-placed insurance scandal

Reuters: The force-placed insurance scandal


November 9, 2010- American Banker’s Jeff Horwitz has a spectacular piece of reporting today about goings on in an obscure corner of the mortgage-servicing world known as force-placed insurance. Essentially, if a homeowner fails to keep up their insurance premiums, then their loan servicer will step in and buy an insurance policy on their behalf, to ensure the home remains insured. It’s all perfectly sensible in theory. But in practice, it’s ripe for abuse, especially when the servicer owns the insurer.

Consider one case found by Horwitz. A homeowner had a $4,000 insurance policy, which was paid by the loan servicer, Everbank, from an escrow account. But Everbank allegedly let that insurance policy lapse, allowing it to replace the policy with a different policy, this one costing more than $33,000. The insurer, a subsidiary of Assurant, then paid Everbank a $7,100 kickback for giving it such a lucrative policy — and, writes Horwitz, “left the door open to further compensation” down the road.

$7,100 is an insanely enormous amount of money for a loan servicer to make on a single property: the average loan servicer makes just $51 per loan per year. And of course it’s not the servicer paying that $33,000 insurance premium — that money is ultimately paid by the investors who bought the loan. Those investors are, understandably, not happy.

There are lots of variations on the force-placed insurance scam. For instance, JPMorgan Chase buys overpriced insurance from a third-party insurer, which then reinsures the property with JPMorgan Chase. This is doubly evil: it not only means that investors are paying far too much money for the insurance, but it also means that, as both the servicer and the ultimate insurer of the property, JPMorgan Chase has every incentive not to pursue claims on the houses it services. Investors, of course, would love to recoup any losses from the insurer, but they can’t bring such a claim — only the servicer can do that.

FULL STORY HERE:

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